Chief Miller nodded to his officers and then walked the line of perps, stopping at Annie first.
“Nice dog,” he said quietly, with fake cheer. “Does he bite?”
That stupid question. “Yes,” said Annie. She tried to meet the chief’s eyes, but he kept his on Chloe. “If you reach for her, she will bite you.”
“And you, miss?” His eyes were still on Chloe and his voice just audible in the dark. “If I reach for you, will you bite?”
Name, rank and serial number.
“I asked you a question.” Now he raised his eyes to her face.
I will kill you, thought Andrew.
“—You have no reason to touch me, Chief Miller. I have no answer for that question.”
The chief stopped in front of Andrew now, studying his face while Andrew compiled the chief’s genealogy and work history: dark skin, narrow nose / family in the South, New York City / wedding ring / plus larger ring, fake sapphire—
The chief had gone on to JR. Each made an effort to keep his face blank.
“Where you staying?”
“Going to be with us for long?”
Forever, you piss-ant. “Long as my job lasts.”
And then Chief Miller walked back to the white Explorer and visited with Steve at the window. The chief listened with his right ear, his gaze on the perps and the cops, half-a-dozen people standing by the side of the road in flashing red light that in half an hour had never ended. The chief might have said “Hm!” again, but as far as Annie could see, he left Steve without speaking.
“Go home,” he said, in the same quiet voice that covered them, without shouting, under the flashing red light.
Andrew and JR immediately started putting things back into the car.
“He has my driver’s license,” said Annie, nodding at the heaviest of the three cops. The licenses returned, the performance piece reversed, the cops danced back into their cars, and Annie was free to drive again, when all she wanted to do was wash everything—car, hair, Chloe’s bed, everything—in soap and hot water.
“Well, shit,” sighed Andrew.
“That’s it,” said JR from the back seat. “Black man in a nice car, they harass you.”
“Are you supposed to be somewhere tonight?” Andrew looked at Annie.
“Lugubria.” Thirty minutes north of Schuyler. “In 45 minutes. Tina will kill me if I don’t go.” Now Annie was close to tears.
“I’ll drive you.” Andrew put his arm around her and kissed her cheek. “You were great, you know.”
“You had some fine moments there,” said JR in a voice that grinned. “Kiss her for me.”
Andrew kissed Annie again, then wiped a tear from her cheek with his sleeve. “You have to go, but not because she’ll kill you. You have to be there. As usual.”
“And we’ll take Chloe too, right?”
“Right. Chloe and I will wait for you.”
“So what was going on there?” They had dropped off JR and were eating pizza slices in the car before Lugubria's town board meeting. With her blood sugar inching into a positive number, Annie felt a little better. She bit off a piece of the third slice and gave it to Chloe through the grid of her crate. Chloe snatched it and chewed furiously.
“Some cop saw you pass that old lady on a double yellow line last week.”
“An-drewwww! First, no cop saw me. Second, I’m serious.”
“The car and the people in it—what JR said. Or, they follow this car all the time. Or—I have to look into this one—some little turd gave them a false tip. I’ll ask Steve tomorrow.”
Often these days Andrew’s answers raised more questions. The turd was probably someone at the plant. Annie went for Steve.
“Why did the chief talk to Steve?”
“The chief may talk to Steve a lot about his staff. I just hope he would have bailed us out.”
Lugubria’s meeting had finally ended, Andrew was reclined full out in the car's front seat, sound asleep, and Chloe’s crate was empty.
Chloe stuck her head out from underneath Andrew’s jacket and wriggled in ecstatic relief. They got out of the car and stretched simultaneously.
“She was having an anxiety attack,” said Andrew. “Can we stay at your house tonight?”
“Fine with me. Can I get a new car?”
“I went through that in my head. It would just give them something new to explore.”
Copyright © Debby Mayer